GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With the buzz of US-131 in the background at the Consumers Energy Service Center in Grand Rapids, Wyoming Mayor Jack Poll declared Tuesday National Night Out.
National Night Out is a countrywide campaign meant to bring communities and their law enforcement agencies together to help forge stronger relationships and learn about crime prevention by organizing neighborhood block parties and other entertaining and interactive events.
“With everything that’s going on in our nation today and for the past couple years, just being able to get out and interact with our communities in a non-enforcement type role, just to let the community see us as individual humans and just have that person-to-person contact, that’s really what it’s all about,” Grandville Police Chief Paul Anglim said.
Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom is in his first year his role for the city. He visited events throughout Grand Rapids Tuesday night.
“For me, it feels like a breath of fresh air,” Winstrom said. “It’s a time to reset. It’s a time, you know we’re in the middle of the summer. And get out, it’s going to be a beautiful day in the nice weather. And I hope it’s just going to be a night of real peace and getting together.”
He hoped his officers would be able to reconnect with the community in a face-to-face interaction and could hear what people want to see from city policing. He also hoped the community would be accepting of their neighbors in uniform.
“Any chance like this is an opportunity just to rehumanize the badge and the uniform and go out and be like, ‘We’re people too,’” Winstrom said. “Meeting in a situation like this, where we’re out, we’re barbecuing, we’ve got bouncy houses there, there’s events going on, just remember we’re all people and we got to live together.”
Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom said addressing crime cannot be done alone. The city has had 17 homicides this year and has been dealing with a recent string of car thefts.
“We really need the people of Grand Rapids, especially the adults in Grand Rapids, to really be the role model and say, ‘We’re not going to put up with violent crime in our community,’” Winstrom said.
Both chiefs believe this is a chance for their departments to recalibrate and to listen to those they serve.
“It’s a two-way street,” Chief Anglim said. “We have to be willing to put ourselves out there. If we expect the public to come out and meet us, we have to be willing to meet them on a human level.”
Mayor Rosalynn Bliss was also attending National Night Out events in Grand Rapids.
With former GRPD Officer Christopher Schurr facing charges for shooting and killing Patrick Lyoya, city leaders are trying to increase transparency and navigate a challenging time for the city.
“It’s a time to listen but it’s also a time to come together and say how do we move forward as a community. How do we build relationships, rebuild trust, how do we identify our shared common goals and then how to we come around the table and work together,” Bliss said.
The city has seen many crimes involving teens and people attending the event hope that keeping young people out of trouble.
Scott Smith, a Grand Rapids resident, said building a better relationship with police and first responders can help.
“It’s good for those particular people to get out and into the community just so we know they’re there and let the kids know that they’re safe. A lot of times they only see them in danger so it’s good for them to see them in a different atmosphere,” Smith said.